January 30, 2012

San Francisco day 3 | Marin farmers market | Herbivore | Haight Ashbury | Dosa South Indian

Day three was more blustery and less sunny than what we'd experienced so far, but still a far cry from the winter we left behind, so we weren't complaining as we started the day early and headed over the bridge to the Marin farmers market. We have all-year-round outdoor markets in Seattle, but the produce tends to be more of the stored root and squash variety, unlike at the Marin market, where fresh veggies were in abundance. My son was quick to point out (brag) that during the summer, the market is much larger, but to my eyes it looked pretty amazing.

One thing I noticed right away was the expanded variety of fruits and veggies from what I was used to. For example, there was a man selling (and sampling) dates, and he had at least six different varieties. I'd never even seen most of them before, and I couldn't resist buying some for Alison and Jordan.

The same was true for the citrus, and some of the oranges I saw were completely new to me. I couldn't resist picking up a couple of blood limes to take home, since the only kind of lime I've seen is a ... lime lime. It doesn't taste like a lime — more like a mandarin orange — and in fact is a cross between the red finger lime and the Ellendale Mandarin.

In addition to produce, there were all sorts of tasty offerings, like toasted lentil snacks being sold by one of the the venders. With so many varieties available it was a difficult choice, but we settled on red lentils.

Perhaps the most exciting find was the Scream ice cream booth. Scream is advertised as sorbet, but to me the consistency and taste is really more like gelato. The samples were flying from the vender to our mouths at lightening speed, one flavor more amazing then the next — pistachio, vanilla macadamia, hazelnut peanut butter, coffee almond. To me, the pistachio was irresistible, so I gave in to a small  (very small) cup. So good, but only available in Oakland, at the Marin farmers market and one spot in SF.

We left the market to the lively tunes from a country western band, and did some car touring before heading back to SF.

There was a Packers playoff game that Jordan and Alison wanted to watch so Ken and I planned our own afternoon walking tour, starting with lunch at Herbivore, a vegan restaurant which was conveniently near our airbnb, and on the way to our afternoon destination. I had a cold Indonesian noodle (rice noodle) salad which was tasty, though not memorable.

Ken had lemongrass noodles — char-broiled veggies garnished with fresh cilantro and crushed peanuts in a lemongrass-ginger dressing over rice noodles. He said it was really good. I would probably return to Herbivore next time we're in town.

Our plan after lunch was to explore Upper Haight. Who hasn't heard of Haight-Ashbury, made famous in the 60s? Many of the the large, old Victorian homes along Ashbury have been restored to their former eye-popping glory, and we really enjoyed exploring the area.

I was especially taken with the cool-looking gates in front of each house's entry area.

Once we turned off Ashbury onto Haight, the flavor of the neighborhood took a distinct turn, and I thought maybe I'd entered a time machine and was back in the 60s. It was all head shops and tie dye, and people smoking pot on the street. We walked down Haight to Golden Gate Park, and were exploring the park when we realized it was getting colder, more windy, and late, and if we wanted to get back before dark, we'd have to begin our return walk.

We returned to the airbnb, and after a rest from all the walking, we headed out to dinner at Dosa South Indian restaurant on Fillmore, in Japantown. Dosa is not a vegetarian restaurant but has vegan and gluten-free offerings, and our waitress seemed very knowledgeable about the menu. The food choices were unlike any other Indian restaurant I've dined in, and I couldn't rely on my usual selections, like aloo gobi. Aloo gobi was nowhere to be seen, so I was forced to try something new. I had dosa (savory rice and lentil crepe) with a classic masala (spiced mashed potatoes, onions and cashews) filling. It came with fresh coconut and tomato chutneys, and sambar, a lentil dipping soup made with vegetables and spices. It was fabulous, and I'd love to have it again. Right now. The crispy dosa was delectable and the spicy accompaniments were delicious.

My husband had a seasonal vegetable curry with parsnip, potato, butternut squash, green beans and cauliflower, and he was well-pleased. We would definitely return to Dosa. You must make a reservation early because they get booked up.

Thus ends day three, and only one more to go, if anyone's still reading. :D

Full disclosure: I purchased the ice cream on my own. I received no money for the mention of this product. I am not an affiliate of this company. Any restaurant reviews are totally independent and not at the request of the restaurant. All opinions are my own.

January 25, 2012

San Francisco highlights: day 2 | Burma Superstar | Gracias Madre

We started our second day in San Francisco with a hike at Lands End in the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. According to the park's Web site, "Lands End is San Francisco’s wildest and rockiest coast. Trails at Lands End offer a cliff-top walk through shadowy cypress, with scenic overlooks, 30-mile views of the coast, and foot access to several shoreline pocket beaches."

I'd say that's a good description. It doesn't mention the hundreds of steps built into the trail, but the description of the scenery is accurate. It was another beautiful day, and a perfect opportunity to enjoy gorgeous surroundings and fresh air.

Above you see my husband and me sitting on a rock near the start of the trail, where we could see the Golden Gate bridge in the distance.

After spending the morning hiking we were hungry and ready for lunch at our chosen restaurant, Burma Superstar. The restaurant was on the shady side of the street where it was a tad chilly, and we had a bit of a wait, so I was impressed to see a big pot of hot tea outside for waiting customers to enjoy.

Samusa soup

Burma Superstar isn't a vegetarian restaurant, which always leaves me a little on edge, but it has vegetarian offerings on the menu. However, although I haven't been mentioning this on my blog, I've been avoiding gluten for the last few months, and the items being ordered by my family to share were not ones I would have chosen. Since they were favorites of my son, and everyone else wanted them, I ordered a broccoli dish rather than sharing the other choices. The first item to arrive at the table was samusa soup, which I passed on.

Tea leaf salad and Rainbow salad (no shrimp)

We also had tea leaf salad and a noodle salad. Everyone loved these dishes though I can't offer personal comments since I didn't eat them.

Wok tossed broccoli

My broccoli was well-cooked and tasty, but surprisingly oily. I was hungry and wanted to eat it but there was only so much I could consume because of the greasiness. Would I go back to Burma Superstar? Probably not, though I might not be the best person to review the restaurant. Everyone else at my table and in the packed restaurant was enthusiastic.

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we finished lunch but we went back to our son's apartment and did a walking tour of the neighborhood where he and Alison live, plus the Mission district. Then, even though I really didn't think I could walk one more step, my husband and I walked back to our apartment to rest a little before dinner at Gracias Madre.

Enchiladas con Mole (I think)

Gracias Madre was a restaurant I really wanted to experience, and I loved it. I had the enchiladas con mole — spicy mole enchiladas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and beans, and it was just delicious. It was so dark in the restaurant that photography was impossible without a flash, and difficult with one, so you'll have to use your imagination. The food was impressive.

Quesadillas de Calabaza (maybe)

Alison got what she thought was going to be a smaller dish, but it was large and gorgeous. The menu describes it as butternut squash and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa. She was quite pleased with her choice, and I think the rest of us were a little jealous.


My husband ordered tacos — three corn tortillas topped with a choice of seasonal vegetables and cashew cheese, served with beans. My son had Chilaquiles — handmade corn tortillas quartered and sauteed in a spicy salsa roja, topped with avocado, cilantro, cashew crema and onions, and served with black beans. I believe everyone was very thrilled with their choices. (Read a great review of Gracias Madre, here.)

It's sad to think that Gracia Madre may be closed the next time we visit SF. I've heard rumors that it's possible not all of the Café Gratitude-connected restaurants will close, though it sure sounds like they are being sold. Anyone know anything about this?

Full disclosure: Any restaurant reviews are totally independent and not at the request of the restaurant. All opinions are my own.

January 23, 2012

Warning: do not delete

I'm going to digress from my usual blog posts to tell you what happened to my blog on Saturday, and hopefully prevent something similar from happening to you. I don't know if anyone has noticed the message that now appears on the top right sidebar of the blog, but it says that on Saturday, I accidentally deleted every image from my blog — the header, all images from the sidebars, pages and from every one of the 386 posts I've written over the last five years. Gone, gone, gone.

How did I do so much damage, you might be wondering. It has to do with Google+ and Picasa. I was not a Google+ user. Though I've gotten lots of emails telling me that this person and that has added me to Google Circles, I haven't paid much attention to it. I don't have the time or desire to use more social networking sites than I already use. I barely use twitter — mostly it's Facebook and blogging where I spend my Internet time. But I had a bunch of San Francisco photos that I wanted my son and his girlfriend to see, and they use Google+, so I went to the site and posted the photos. While I was there, I noticed that a bunch of my blog photos were there, and I didn't want them to be. I should have stopped to figure out why, but I was annoyed that Google had preempted my choices, and I deleted the photos I didn't want to share. Big mistake.

What I didn't know was that Picasa and Google+ are now connected, and what you delete from Google+ is also deleted from Picasa. Since Picasa hosts all of my blog images, and the images disappeared from my Picasa account, they also disappeared from my blog. I didn't realize at first what had happened, but then, as black squares began to replace the blog images, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. I searched frantically for a remedy, but none could be found. I've read through the help sections and searched the forums, only to find other stories exactly like mine, and a response from Google that nothing could be done. There was a suggestion that deleted files could be found in the trash folder on my computer but this didn't seem to be the case.

I considered deleting the blog and calling it quits, but couldn't bring myself to do it. Fortunately, I still have all the images on my hard drive. Except for the first year, they are organized and findable, but it's still an excruciating process to put them all back again. I've started reassembling the blog from the present, going backwards towards the beginning, though I don't always put every image back. And I don't know if I'll get the whole thing done. Also, for some reason I don't understand, images I've put back keep disappearing.

What would you do if this happened to you? Would you delete your blog? Start over? Any suggestions or words of comfort will be appreciated. And I'll try to answer any questions you may have.

Update: I forgot to mention that if you do find yourself looking at black squares on your blog instead of photos, don't just delete them. If you look at the HTML code, you'll see that the black squares still contain data as if they were actual photos. You'll be able to find out what photos were there, and what size they were. But, I hope you never have to see anything like this on your blog!

I've been nominated for the Top 25 vegan bloggers in the Mom's circle of friends. I don't exactly fit the profile of a young mom raising kids, but hey, I AM a mom and I raised three vegan boys. Now all I need are votes, and I'd be honored to have yours. Please take a minute and vote for me. Thanks! :D

January 20, 2012

San Francisco: day 1 highlights

The Painted Ladies seen from Alamo Square. We stayed in the far left green one.

Interesting week. After four beautiful days (Fri. thru Mon.) in San Francisco, we returned Monday night to a snow-covered city. Tuesday was not too bad, but still bad enough that the ancient history class I'm taking was cancelled. Then things began to escalate, and the rest of the week turned into a snow-ice-slush-power outage-weather-wreckage. Three more days of exciting weather have closed public schools and Universities, as the slippery, ice-covered hills we call streets in Seattle, have become slick and dangerous. The heavy snow and ice has been toppling trees and branches and snapping power lines, causing roughly 300,000 people in neighboring communities to be without power, some for days. It's supposed to start warming up and melting, but the new worry then becomes flooding. So far today, Friday, no newspapers and no trash trucks, so navigating outdoors is still uncertain.

Enough about the weather; what I really want to talk about is our trip to San Francisco to visit our son and his girlfriend. Last Friday morning we boarded our Alaskan Airways flight and headed to a much sunnier and warmer climate. The first thing my husband noticed was that right there on the seat-pocket airplane menu, was a vegan, gluten-free option! This was something I'd never seen before and, although we had no need of food, it was still exciting to see the word, "vegan" on an airplane fast-food menu. Yikes.

One of at least 20 cafeterias at Google.

Our son picked us up at the airport, and we drove to the Google campus in Mountain View to join his girlfriend Alison and her uncle, as Alison's guests, for lunch. Alison works at Google, and by the look of things, Google employees are treated well. Ahem. I want to work at Google. The gorgeous campus is filled with gardens, sculpture, recreational opportunities, cafeterias. Did I mention cafeterias? There are cuisine-and diet-specific cafeterias, including a vegan one, but we went to a non-specific one. My son says, "the chef is from the south, and also spent time in SE Asia, so he cooks a lot of southern comfort food and SE asian influenced food."
There was a terrific salad bar with all sorts of fresh and interesting ingredients, including tofu and exotic olives.

My salad and roasted brussels sprouts.

There was also a hot bar where I found a large casserole of roasted brussels sprouts. Can you believe it? Later, when I went back for seconds, the sprouts had been replaced with a casserole of roasted broccolini — perfectly cooked and delicious.

My husband's pho

Also, a pho bar with everything needed to make pho, including vegan soup stock. At Google, all the foods have a list of ingredients and cooking methods displayed, so you know what you're getting.

My husband's salad

My pho.

After lunch, we stopped at the smoothie shop and had smoothies. Seriously. Google provides just about any healthy food you can imagine. And by provides, I mean you don't pay for the food. You just eat it.

We took a stroll around the main campus after lunch — it was 71 degrees in Mountain View, and a gorgeous day for a walk. The campus is large, and Googlers need a way to get around, so Google provides bikes for that purpose, and they are so cool they are a theft temptation for the townies. As I eyed the bikes, I could see why.

Our host, our son, my husband on the Google campus.

After lunch, it was time to head back to San Francisco so we could check into our airbnb. We stayed in one of the Victorian Painted Ladies on Alamo Square. Our apartment was in the green building on the left — around the back on the ground level. It was old but pleasant, and the location was great.

Across the street on a high hill was Alamo Square, where you could find great views of the city. The houses are kind of a tourist attraction, and one evening when we came home we found a bus load of said tourists, having a look.

A closer look at one of the houses.

Thanks to all of you, I had a long list of restaurant possibilities in my bag, and for our first dinner, we chose Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese.

Taku-Sui (Gyoza And Veggies Pot)

Looking at the photos now, the food looks amazing, but at the time, we were just OK with it. We liked it, but it wasn't our favorite place by any means, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe they were having an off night.

ha-Ya Delight (Seasoned Brown Rice)

Normally, I like simple, plain food, but for some reason, my dish wasn't quite as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be. It seemed expensive, and the vegetables were unevenly seasoned. Some were really salty, and some, flavorless. The rice was completely plain without even a simple sauce.

Sushi Combo Dinner

My son's sushi was the best dish of the night, and if I were to give Cha-Ya another go, and I probably would, that's what I would order.

Cha-Ya Nabe (Vegan Sukiyaki)

So ends our first day in San Francisco. I didn't tell you about all the walking we did as we explored Jordan and Alison's neighborhood, but I can tell you that after a day of traveling, walking and eating, we slept well.

I've been nominated for the Top 25 vegan bloggers in the Mom's circle of friends. I don't exactly fit the profile of a young mom raising kids, but hey, I AM a mom and I raised three vegan boys. Now all I need are votes, and I'd be honored to have yours. Please take a minute and vote for me. Thanks! :D

January 06, 2012

New year, new rut | San Francisco question | I won!

Ah, breakfast ruts ... I've written about my breakfast rut problem in the past. My last rut, which involved polenta and olives, or occasionally polenta and fruit, was a very satisfying one, and lasted quite a long time, but now I have a new one. It started when I walked into Whole Foods one day and saw a large bag of pink grapefruit from Texas on sale for the irresistible price of $3.99. While I stood admiring the bag of fruit, I remembered reading about a study that showed that red grapefruit slowed down bone loss, and the combination of the possibility of added health benefits plus the remarkable price, was more than I could resist. I bought the bag, and thus started my latest breakfast craze.

Every morning I have a red grapefruit, a handful of organic dried figs from Costco and a handfull of roasted, unsalted pistachios. Then I'm good until lunch. The rut has been maintained by a second bag from WF at the inflated price of $5.99, an unexpected gift box of fabulous Florida oranges and grapefruit sent by a friend, and a bunch of fruit picked by our kids and brought back from a trip to Arizona. I'm so entrenched in my rut that I will now have to purchase more grapefruit, and head back to Costco for another giant bag of figs (at Costco, all bags are giant) because I'm too entrenched in my rut at the moment to make a graceful move to a new one.

But hey, there are worse ruts. Pistachios and figs are loaded with health benefits, and according to the Website livestrong.com, pink (also known as red) grapefruit provides a lot of nutritional benefits.
Nutritional Content
The pink grapefruit provides significant nutritional content. A serving of one grapefruit provides 3.7 g of dietary fiber, 310 mg of potassium, 72 mg of vitamin C, 30 mcg of folate and 2645 IU of vitamin A. Pink grapefruit provides 120 percent of this recommended Daily Value of Vitamin C.
Grapefruit contains the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene, known for their ability to protect the body's cells and organs from free-radical damage. Free radicals are the byproducts of normal metabolic processes and environmental toxins that alter DNA and cause damage to healthy cells, contributing to disease and premature aging. The lycopene and beta-carotene carotenoids also protect the skin from UV rays and stimulate the immune response.
Pink grapefruit may help lower blood triglycerides, a type of cholesterol known to significantly contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2006 study by researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The results showed the pink grapefruit lowered cholesterol levels more than white grapefruit. The researchers said either the fruit's antioxidants cause the beneficial effect or pink grapefruit may contain a chemical yet undiscovered.
(Grapefruit and grapefruit juice should be avoided by those taking certain heart medications or statin cholesterol lowering drugs.)


San Francisco Question
I have a question for anyone reading this who lives in or visits the Bay Area. We're heading to San Francisco for a few days, and want some suggestions about where to eat.


I won something!
Way back in November, I entered a giveaway on Kathy Hester's blog, Healthy Slow Cooking, and I won a swag bag of samples and coupons! It's always fun to win a giveaway and get a bunch of stuff in the mail. Kathy is the author of the cookbook, "The Vegan Slow Cooker," and I suggest you check out her blog and book. The book is on my wish list.


Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who wrote comforting words on my last post or sent emails of condolence. Although every one made me cry, you can't imagine how much I appreciated each and every thought. Thank you.

I've been a slacker in my blog commenting but I promise to try to do better.

I've been nominated for the Top 25. Now all I need are votes, and I'd be honored to have yours. :D